Natural Dyeing: Black Beans, Part 2

You might remember that not so long ago I experimented with dyeing with black beans. My white wool yarns became violet and the grey yarn navy blue (below from left to right). I was a bit puzzled at the time why my yarn didn’t become sky blue as I expect to happen. Well, as you can see on the right, I did it! I changed quite a lot of factors, so I can’t be sure what was it that made the difference in the end.

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I bought some pH indicator paper to test our tap water’s pH-level and compere it to the bottled spring waters pH level. My idea was that our tap waters pH would be much lower and that would explain the violet colour. Well, it turned out that both water’s measured identical 6, so there goes my theory. To give some perspective number 7 is the neutral pH level, pH less than 7 are acidic and solutions with a pH greater than 7 are basic or alkaline. The last time I’ve had to think about things like this was at chemistry class in school.

I did test what would happen if I mix some vinegar to the water and that did drop the pH to 4. When I was using the black beans for the first time, I did put some vinegar to the last rinsing water so that might have something to do with the violet colour. Still I swear that the colour was already violet before that.

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The other factors I changed were:

The beans. I changed the brand of black beans I used. Although they were both imported from China and the only difference was that the new ones were organic.

The yarn. Both yarns were 100% lambswool, only difference was that the first one was a Finnish yarn (and maybe a bit greasier) and the other yarn was from Peru.

Mordanting. The first time I used only alum as mordant, but the second time I used both alum and the cream of tartar.  I  got a comment to my post about red cabbage from VerenaErin and she said that alum itself is very acidic. I tested it by mixing some alum to tap water and the pH-level dropped to 4 and after I added some cream of tartar I got 3. But that is just confusing me even more.

The time. The first time around I let the yarn soak in the dye for 24 hours and the second time 48 hours, so twice as long.

No vinegar. First time I did this I noticed that the colour kept on getting off when I was doing the rinsing afterwards. I added a pit of vinegar to the rinsing water which I also think might have highlighted the violet colour.

The last time I also notice that the colour kept on getting off even after the yarn was dry. But this time it was much easier to rinse the yarn and the colour stayed. So which one of the factors listed above is responsible for this? I’m puzzled. But anyhow, I did manage to get the blue I wanted in the end! Even though I have no clue how.

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Natural Dyeing: Black Beans (looking for the blues)

The name of my blog is called The Easy Blues. That’s because I was listening John Martyn two months ago when I started this blog. Ironically blue is definitely not the easiest colour to achieve when talking about natural dyes. Until recently I thought it would only be possible with indigo and perhaps some mushrooms. But then I found this blog post about dyeing with black beans. The blogger had achieved a beautiful sky blue colour. I pretty much followed the same recipe but my results were a bit different.

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I started out with 100 g of dried black beans. I laid them in the bottom of a small takeaway tub, I filled it with water and let the beans soak for 12 hours. Then I collected the dye and filled it with water again and let the beans soak for another 12 hours. By this time I figured I needed more dye than what I was getting from this little container, so I filled another one and did the same as above. In the end I ended up using 200 g of black beans and 1 litre of water. Next time I might use a bigger container and soak the beans together for the whole 24 hours. I’m not sure if there will be any difference in the colour.

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I collected the dye to a glass jar and I put in 40 g skein of wool yarn that I had previously mordanted with alum (read about it here). I used both white and grey yarn to see the difference. I let the yarn stay in the dye for 24 hours, stirring the yarn every once in a while.

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I didn’t get a sky blue or green (as some people have had) but a lavender colour.

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The grey yarn on the other hand did turn  out a beautiful navy blue.

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I used the dye for a second time and but in a tiny 10 g skein of wool yarn for 24 hours. It came out lavender as well, but a little lighter shade (on the left.)

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One thing I did notice while winding the yarn balls was that the colour gets off. I don’t know if this is something I did wrong, maybe I didn’t rinse the yarn enough. I did add a bit of vinegar to the last rinsing water so that the colour would stay. Maybe this is normal for black bean dye? This is the first time I have noticed this kind of behavior with natural dyes.

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I do like the colours but I’m curious why mine turned out violet and not sky blue.  As always with natural dyes, you can never know what’s going to happen. Is it the type of beans I used? Is there really a difference between black beans and back turtle beans? What about the tap water that I used? Does the PH matter? I’m going to find out what is our tap waters PH and I’m also going to have another try with black beans. I will find that sky blue. Do you have any experiences with black beans? I did dye a little bit more of the navy blue yarn (below) but unfortunately my photo does not repeat that colour exactly as it is. The real colour is bit more grey. It’s quite difficult to photograph naturally dyed yarns because they change so much depending on the light.

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